Listen to ‘The Magnus Archives’ for an authentically creepy experience

April 23, 2020 — by Samatha Yee

Stuck at home day in and day out with little contact with the outside world, we can easily see our emotions begin to dull and generally fall into a boring rut of hollow feelings.

A simple remedy to the tedious boredom of quarantine is quality fear-inducing entertainment. It is the perfect time to binge-listen “The Magnus Archives,” an ongoing fictional horror podcast produced by Rusty Quill and created by Jonathan Sims, the writer and voice of the character Archivist Jonathan Sims, and Alexander J. Newall, the director and voice of the character Martin Blackwood.

The podcast, which began in 2016, is an anthology of unsettling paranormal stories recorded and organized in the archives of the fictional Magnus Institute, an academic institute dedicated to researching the “esoteric and paranormal.” 

There are four complete seasons of “The Magnus Archives,” each with 40 episodes. Each episode is around 24 minutes. 

The overarching plot reveals itself over multiple episodes of seemingly unrelated stories. Although there are a lot of episodes to get through, it’s rewarding to recognize names, objects, themes and entities that pop up as the story progresses and you try to piece together the endless eldritch puzzle “The Magnus Archives” gives you.

The story-telling style of “The Magnus Archives” is similar to the horror of manga artist Junji Ito or filmmaker Ari Aster — no terrifying jumpscares, just a steady buildup of nightmare fuel.

After a few episodes, it’s hard to make yourself look out your window at night for fear of what you might see or hear. But it is even harder to actually quit listening, especially after particularly twisted episodes like “Killing Floor” (MAG30, one of my personal favorites).

The episode revolves around a slaughterhouse worker’s experience getting lost on the “killing floor” of the factory. Surprisingly, the creepiest moments of the incident did not involve gore, but instead descriptions of the hallways, which “just seemed to lead into each other” and the chilling line “you cannot stop slaughter by closing the door.”

Even after you finish the entire episode, you’ll just keep craving the deep, sublime dread that it invokes.

One of the most notable things about “The Magnus Archives” is how effective its imagery and descriptions are, despite it having no visuals. I will never be able to un-hear the description of a woman full of worms with “deep, black holes just honeycombing every bit of flesh.” (By the way, I would recommend not eating while listening to the podcast).

But what makes “The Magnus Archives” such good quarantine entertainment is how weirdly close to home it can be. I’m not picky with my horror media, but after going through five or six early-2000s splatter films all with basically the same plot as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” within the first week of quarantine, you start to get a little tired.

Instead of antagonizing mentally ill people or brutalizing minorities, a common trope in other horror media, “The Magnus Archives” creatively pulls its creepiness out of the niche fears and phobias you probably never knew you had: things like the sky, realizing someone isn’t who you thought they were, being alone in a room, having to talk to your neighbor, the smell of mold, hot weather and people with generic-sounding names.

For example, MAG47, “The New Door,” recounts the story of a real estate agent who went through a door that mysteriously appeared in a house she was selling. She walked into a hallway full of mirrors that “dragged on and on, bending almost imperceptibly to the left.” The episode taps into the innate creepiness of walking down a long corridor without even needing to show imagery of one. 

After hearing the full story, I’ve thought twice about every door I’ve decided to open and wondered whether it had existed previously or not.

Essentially, listening to “The Magnus Archives” can help you forget your real worries about COVID-19 by blocking them out with apprehensions about fictional events that feel like they could still happen to you. You can spice up your boring routines with the feeling that you’re being watched and feel impending doom whenever you smell something a little bit off or read a typo in your textbook.

“The Magnus Archives” recently launched its fifth and last season, which you can listen to on YouTube, Spotify or iTunes. Give it a listen to add a macabre edge to your quarantine.


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